Jon Stewart's Scathing Monologue on Charleston is Worth Discussing

June 19th 2015

Sarah Gray

It was a fittingly sober night on Thursday's episode of "The Daily Show." The show aired only a little over 24-hours after a 21 year old white gunman opened fire at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing six Black women and three Black men -- including Rev. Clementa Pinckney. In the face of this horrific tragedy, Jon Stewart offered viewers a raw moment stripped of (nearly all) jokes. (Much in the way that he did after 9/11, or when reporting about the deaths of Black men at the hands of police). 

"I honestly have nothing, other than just sadness," Stewart said. Instead of jokes Stewart offered something much more powerful. He asked the country to address the "gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn't exist."

We've heard this refrain before. It wove through an essay written by the New Republic's Rebecca Traister titled "Our Racist History Isn't Back to Haunt Us. It Never Left Us." Just the subtitle alone for Ta-Nehisi Coates' brilliant 2014 piece "The Case for Reparations" states, "Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole." It is a similar theme to an essay written by James Baldwin back in 1965: The incredibly relevant essay "White Man's Guilt" was published in Ebony 50 years ago. "But, even beyond this, it is terrifying to consider the precise nature of the things you have bought with the flesh you have sold--of what you continue to buy with the flesh you continue to sell," Baldwin wrote.

We as a nation have failed to address the "gaping racial wound," and Stewart isn't too confident we'll surmount denial and inaction. “I’m confident though that by acknowledging it—by staring into it—we still won’t do jack shit," he states. "Yeah, that’s us. That’s the part that blows my mind.”​ The entire powerful segment can be viewed below:



Stewart finished his statement by sharply criticizing the Confederate flag that still flies over South Carolina. You can read ATTN:'s coverage of the confederate flag controversy here